Just the facts. From the experts.

Apart from the Trekkies out there, how many of you ever thought that the future of food technology would involve a 3-D printer? Yeah, we were a bit surprised, too! While traditional printers apply layers of ink, 3-D printers have the ability to put down layers of product such as sugar, chocolate or even pizza ingredients to form a raised product. Can you imagine the options?

The Cornell FAB@Home Student Project Team is already busy exploring the possibilities. Check out this interview excerpt from Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru, with Jeff Lipton, Cornell PhD student and team lead of FAB@Home. Lipton and his team are working with an open source collaboration of users to create a functional 3-D printer that could be used in the home.

Supermarket Guru: So Jeff, tell us a little about the FAB@Home Project. What is it all about?

Jeff Lipton: Well, FAB@Home is a worldwide open source collaboration of users and developers to make a functional home 3-D printer. The main goal of the project is to use 3-D printing to democratize innovation to allow for mass customization and really open up the frontiers of invention to the ‘common man.’

Supermarket Guru: What does the FAB@Home printer have to do with food?

Jeff Lipton: This isn’t your typical 2-D printer; the way it works is it puts droplets of material, layer by layer to create an object. And when we looked at the home, we knew that you were going to have one in your home over the next 20 years.

Supermarket Guru: But Jeff, what about the drive towards more health foods, getting back to whole foods and natural ingredients?

Jeff Lipton: Well, the fundamental rule is: garbage in, garbage out. You can’t print chocolate sculptures all day long and eat them and expect to be thinner. However, where the machine will really shine is merging the information divide and digital divide. Right now we know what we should be eating. We have all these sensors on our bodies and even in our smart phones to tell us how long we’ve walked and how much we’ve exercised. But if we don't take that delicious cookbook recipe for steamed rice and make it ourselves, we will end up not benefiting from it. This machine can dole out meals based on your caloric intake for the day, based on your movements for the day and really allow you to tailor your diet using a computer program to automate the food preparation rather than relying on you to not just go to the snack drawer and eat something delicious.

Beam me up? Wired.com explores how astronauts might be able to use a 3-D printer in space.

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